Honduran Election Jeopardy

November 17, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

The political situation in Honduras has evolved into a constitutional crisis with the upcoming national elections scheduled on November 29, 2009. President Manuel Zelaya, a democratically elected head of the state was ousted through a military coup approved by the Honduran Congress on the premise that the deposed leader allegedly attempted to subvert the constitution to remain in power.

Meanwhile, the self-appointed interim President Roberto Micheletti has not wasted any time in demonstrating the monstrosity of a typical military coup since seizing power in June, 2009. In a bizarre twist to the political fiasco, the Congress and the military regime are in breach of the constitution they were proposing to defend against the Zelaya government. Hondurans plight has worsened with the political unrest and contrarily solidified the support for the legitimate Zelaya leadership.

To add insult to injury, the U.S. State Department intervened in a manner to broker the open-end ‘Tegucigalpa San Jose Accord’ on October 29, 2009 without any stipulations or deadline.

According to the Associated Press release on date – Martha Mendoza in Mexico City

“The accord calls for the formation of a national unity government, but does not require Zelaya’s restoration to office, leaving that decision up to Congress. It set no deadline for lawmakers to vote.
Honduran lawmakers will not decide whether to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya until after upcoming presidential elections, the congressional leader said Tuesday, a decision that could undermine international support for the vote.

The administration of President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that recognition of the election is not linked to any one action, said State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet.

Several Latin American countries have warned they will not recognize the outcome of the election unless Zelaya is restored beforehand.

But the United States has not ruled out restoring diplomatic ties with a newly elected Honduran government even if Zelaya remains out of power through the vote.

Zelaya declared the pact a failure two weeks ago when Micheletti announced the formation of a unity government before Congress had voted, accusing the interim leader of maneuvering to stay in power.”
Analysis – By Padmini Arhant

It’s apparent to any reasonable mind that the U.S. State department’s haphazard mediation has exacerbated the turmoil in the absence of specificity and clarity not to mention the weakening of the United States status to resolve international issues.

In perspective, the precise solutions to the Honduran political climax is for the interim coup leader Roberto Micheletti to acknowledge the reality and gracefully step aside by allowing the democratically preferred President Manuel Zelaya to resume office until the end of his elected term – January 2010.

As for the Honduran Congress, the actions or the lack thereof strongly suggest their undermining of the constitution they were elected to protect and honor in a democracy. Therefore, it’s incumbent on the Congress as elected representatives to comply with the popular demand and reinstate the Zelaya Presidency that would ensure the political stability right now. Furthermore, within the constitutional framework President Manuel Zelaya should be able to seek re-election provided there is a populace support for the process.

Nevertheless, the military coup under Roberto Micheletti and the Honduran Congress has violated the constitution more than the purported effort by President Manuel Zelaya.

Restoring democracy in Honduras is paramount for political security in the Western hemisphere, considering the precarious economic conditions affecting the majority in the region. The Latin American nations’ decision to denounce the Congress vote and the electoral result is appropriate due to the prevalent undemocratic events thus far.

President Manuel Zelaya is the democratically elected leader and constitutionally justified to govern the nation effective immediately and the forces in defiant of the democratic values are worthy of condemnation notwithstanding their removal from office.

The people of Honduras have displayed tremendous fortitude in rejecting the military takeover and the regional solidarity has been instrumental in containing the unaffordable calamity.

I convey my best wishes to the people of Honduras and encourage them to remain unified in preserving freedom and democracy.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

National Security Act – Torture

May 6, 2009

By Padmini Arhant


The nation riddled with recent events pertaining to national security.  In the past few weeks, there have been vigorous debates and discussions on the release of the torture memos describing the torture tactics applied on the speculative terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay and those held in Bagram Prison, Afghanistan.

There are polarizing views regarding the release of these materials claiming the potential threat to national security including the CIA and FBI operatives’ difficulty in performing their duties to keep the country safe.  Those in favor of transparency welcome the Obama administration’s gesture subject to further course of action. Merely releasing the materials will not suffice considering the misuse of power and gross violation of humanitarian laws.

In addition, the subsequent argument on the possible prosecution of the individuals responsible for torture against the Geneva Convention contributing yet another dilemma in the definition of torture and accountability factor.  Obviously, the predecessors’ supporters vehemently oppose the entire action thus far – from revealing the information to investigation.

The Obama administration‘s ambiguity on the humanitarian issue perceived as the White House conspicuously avoiding ‘retribution’ smear and possible distraction from the legislative matters like the universal health care.   Meanwhile, concerned citizens intrigued by the extreme strategy implemented to justify the imminent danger hypothesis, a constant practice by the previous administration notably the successful fear-mongering tactic during and after the Iraq invasion and occupation.

A full disclosure of the interrogation techniques particularly the notorious water boarding , ill-treatment and the indefinite imprisonment of the ‘so-called suspects’ in these captive centers confirm the serious violation of International Code namely the rejection of GCIII and Habeas Corpus.

It is important to examine the exact interpretation of the International laws set up for guidance and ethical purpose.  Further, the enforcement of these laws is to ensure precisely the state/the authorities remain confined to the jurisdiction of power against unarmed human beings in detention.

Source: The Wikipedia.org (The Free encyclopedia) – Thanks

The Third Geneva Convention of 1949 (abbreviated GCIII or GPW) , one of the Geneva Conventions, is a treaty agreement that primarily concerns the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs), and also touched on other topics. It replaced the Geneva Convention (1929).

According to Article 3, Part 1, General Provisions referred to as ‘Convention in miniature,’

“Noncombatants, combatants who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, including prohibition of outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.

The passing of sentences must also be pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees, which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.  Article 3’s protections exist even if one is not classified as a prisoner of war.”

Habeas corpus (IPA: /ˌheɪbiːæsˈkɔːpəs/) (Latin: You (shall) have the body[1]) is a legal action, or writ, through which a person can seek relief from the unlawful detention of him or herself, or of another person.  It protects the individual from harming him or herself, or from being harmed by the judicial system.  The writ of habeas corpus has historically been an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.

Simply put,

Habeas corpus, a legal action through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention.

The due process for such petitions is not simply civil or criminal, because they incorporate the presumption of nonauthority.  The official who is the respondent has the burden to prove his authority to do or not do something.  Failing this, the court must decide for the petitioner, who may be any person, not just an interested party.  This differs from a motion in a civil process in which the movant must have standing, and bears the burden of proof.”

Here are some news articles detailing the torture on presumed ‘suspects’ held in captivity by the U.S authorities.

Warning: The following articles are graphic and may not be suitable for all.

“I Could Not Stop Screaming”

“The British newspaper Guardian (2/18/2005) reported that one Bagram prisoner, a Palestinian named Mustafa, was blindfolded, handcuffed, gagged, and forced to bend down over a table by three American soldiers.  He said, “They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum… I could not stop screaming when this happened.”

In another case reported by the Guardian, a Jordanian prisoner, Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed Al Deemawi, said that during a 40-day period at Bagram he was threatened with dogs, stripped and photographed “in shameful and obscene positions” and placed in a cage with a hook and a hanging rope.  He says he was hung from this hook, blindfolded, for two days.

Both men were freed from U.S. detention last year after being held at Bagram and Guantánamo.  Neither has been charged with anything by any government.

Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and farmer, was killed by U.S. torturers at Bagram in December 2002.  He had been beaten and chained by his wrists for four days. After his last torture session, Dilawar was chained back to the ceiling.  Several hours passed before a doctor saw him—by which time he was dead and already beginning to stiffen.

“An official of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission questioned –

“Are They Going to Vanish Forever?”

“The Americans are detaining people without any legal procedure. Prisoners do not have the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence.”

Despite the unprecedented human rights violations… translated barbaric in modern times, the defense for the authorities authorizing and executing the medieval customs against unarmed detainees charged guilty without due process is astonishing.  The world witnessed the pervasive prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Bagram, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay through explosive visuals, editorials, columns and interviews predominantly from the international sources and on-line mass media.

Incidentally, the torturers’ loyalists cry ‘foul’ against the latest revelation.  Even though, the international news organizations and human rights groups have been reporting these incidents all along per above articles.  Contrasting the detainees position, all those responsible for the unconscionable crime against humanity involving innocent victims in the witch-hunt for terror suspects, are also exempt from due process however, with the distinction of them proclaimed “Patriotic” in their utter disregard for International laws and human rights.

Clearly, the abuse of power in this context from the pyramid‘s apex to the base is symbolic in the embarrassing chapter of American history.  Ironically, the explanation for torture attributed to national defense while ignoring the brutality against other nationals and their families’ ordeal.

One might argue if it’s worth treading the retribution path rather than moving forward.  It’s possible to move forward if the past had no remnants of violation of the laws involving global citizens in prolonged detention specifically in the absence of any evidence or trials.  Similar treatment of American nationals would have created pandemonium at all levels.

Besides, such practices open the floodgates for misuse of power by future administrations notwithstanding other nations…currently witnessed in the treatment of American journalists imprisoned on allegedly espionage charges by Iran and North Korea.

Whenever there is excessive abuse of power, unequivocally democracy threatened aside from the Constitution made irrelevant.  Therefore, it’s incumbent on the people in a democracy to ensure that neither the state nor any authority is above the law in the land of justice.

Please stand by for more information and analysis on related topics.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant